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Book Reviews
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                             THE SUMMER OF BROKEN THINGS by Margaret Peterson Haddix

For two American teens, a summer trip to Europe turns out to be far more complicated than they ever expected.

Avery doesn’t want to go to Spain with her dad—she’ll fall behind in soccer and he’ll just be working all the time. When she finds out that he’s already chosen a “friend” to accompany her—Kayla, an older girl she used to play with as a little kid—the summer feels even more doomed. But for Kayla, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime, a huge gift her family could never afford. In Spain, the two white girls struggle to find their places among the locals and their language class friends as a jaw-dropping revelation changes their relationship forever. It takes a near tragedy to make them realize that while they might not have chosen this path, how they move forward is their choice. Through chapters told in alternating points of view, Haddix offers a fully realized portrayal of teen girls dealing with the vagaries of their parents’ lives. Spain forms a vivid backdrop to the girls’ confusion and revelations, and Avery and Kayla are each so completely sympathetic that it’s hard to choose whom to root for when they’re at war.

The trip to Spain you wouldn’t wish on anyone, except in the form of this terrific book. (Fiction. 13-18)

You can find this book here.



                             CRASH by Marc Favreau

Spanning the 1930s, this narrative follows the downturn of the U.S. stock market—which pivoted the country into the Great Depression—and accounts for the leaders (women and men) and historic events that contributed to its crash.

In his first book for young readers, Favreau constructs a mostly linear account, told in four parts. “Fall,” the first section, sets the stage after the stock market crashed: poverty, hunger, soup lines, evictions, homelessness, and bank runs and closures. “Rise” begins with the entrance of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In an enlightening narration, Favreau does not waste time in swiveling the spotlight to Eleanor Roosevelt, who was FDR’s closest confidante. He also takes care to profile some of the era’s other notables, including Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (who launched Social Security), union organizer John L. Lewis, and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration and leading member of the so-called “Black Cabinet.” “Setback” recounts the Dust Bowl, and “Victory,” takes the account to the beginning of World War II. Propelling readers through the decade, the book is liberally illustrated with archival material including newspaper clippings and photographs. Throughout, Favreau gives readers incisive, penetrating, at times heartbreaking prose.

A dynamic read deserving of a wide audience. (source notes, bibliography, selected primary sources, timeline, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 10-16)

You can find this book here.


                             SAM & ILSA'S LAST HURRAH by Rachel Cohn

This farcical dramedy takes you from appetizers to dessert—but may not leave you feeling sated.

It's senior year for brother and sister Sam and Ilsa and time for one final dinner party at their grandmother Czarina's rent-controlled apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. (Czarina’s forebears fled Eastern Europe during the pogroms.) The rules are simple: The twins may each invite three people and see how the guests interact. On Sam's side are Ilsa's ex, the suave, ballroom-dancing, Dominican and African-American Parker; Sam's own ex, Jason Goldstein-Chung; and Johan, an Afrikaner whom Sam fell in lust with on the subway. Ilsa's list consists of her school friend Li Zhang; the rude socialite KK Kingsley (presumed white); and Frederyk Podhalanski, a blond Polish exchange student who communicates mostly through his sock puppet, Caspian. Over the course of the evening (narrated in alternating chapters from Ilsa’s and Sam's points of view), this mix of former, current, and future lovers fight, drink, scream at one another, drink, philosophize, drink, and (you guessed it) drink some more. The tone of the book is humorous, although it often toes the farcical line from well on the other side. That rare breed of teen reader who quotes Auntie MameAbsolutely Fabulous, and Neil Simon will devour this, but others may find the characters and scenario excessively mannered.

This sweet treat of a story is akin to a croquembouche—light, rich, and delicious but nutritionally lacking. (Fiction. 14-18)

You can find this book here

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